A-Z

Jacqui

Age at interview: 59
Brief Outline: Jacqui’s husband subjected her to physical, verbal, emotional and financial abuse. His escalating violence motivated her to disclose to her GP about the cause of her serious injuries. They referred her to a local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency and with the help of a support worker she started to make the preparations needed to leave the relationship.
Background: Jacqui is a white British, single, retired nurse with two adult children. She moved into a council rented flat three years ago after leaving an abusive marriage.

More about me...

During her 16 year marriage Jacqui’s husband subjected her to alcohol fuelled physical abuse. The violence towards her that had started with an occasional slap or push escalated to aggressive behaviour that inflicted serious harm, for example broken ribs. Jacqui also experienced financial, verbal and emotional abuse. Her husband’s words and behaviour made her feel stupid, small and unworthy. She became depressed and engaged in self-harm, cutting her arms with razors in an attempt to release the pain inside.

Over the years that they were together Jacqui became increasingly isolated. Her parents disliked her husband and she lost contact with her children after they became frustrated with her for staying in an abusive marriage. At work, Jacqui lied to colleagues about the cause of her bruises as she was ashamed about what was happening to her and did not think that they would understand. This, coupled with her husband’s control over who they saw in their social interactions, further restricted her social network. 

Although recognising that she was in an abusive marriage, Jacqui was initially reluctant to leave and walk away from the material things that she had built up around her during their years together. However it was the escalation of violence that led her to become aware of the permanent damage that her husband was capable of inflicting. Fear for her own life motivated her to finally seek help. She told her GP about the cause of the serious damage to her back. The GP put her in contact with a local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency where she was allocated a support worker who began to help her with the practical aspects of preparing to leave the relationship. 

A few months later when Jacqui made the decision to leave the marriage she walked out with nothing. Her support worker helped her to access some basic belongings for her new flat, such as a bed and cooker, through local charities. After leaving, she also received the support of the local police community support officer who provided her with a personal attack alarm and helped to increase the physical security of her new home. 

The first year after leaving the relationship was a ‘real adjustment period’ for Jacqui. During this time she had to re-learn how to make her own decisions and regain her independence (for example, paying her own bills and eating what she wanted to). Three years on Jacqui remains highly suspicious of men and unannounced visitors to her home can evoke feelings of anxiety. However, freedom from the control of her husband has allowed Jacqui time to return to being the ‘strong woman’ she once was. Her depression has lifted and she fills her days with activities. She now volunteers at a luncheon club, helps out with the local domestic abuse organisation and is a research advisor at the local University. She has increased her social network and has started to rebuild the relationship with her children. Jacqui is determined that her ex-husband will not hold her back from enjoying the rest of her life and she is motivated to tell other women that ‘there is life after domestic abuse’.
 

Jacqui described how she would blame her injuries on over-exuberant grand-children or falling over.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
He injured my back as well. That was the, the last time he really hurt me really badly. And I couldn’t, I really just couldn’t, for weeks and weeks and weeks I was having spasms in my back that would just come on and they were crippling. And when I went to see to the A&E department, I really thought he might have broken my back. And the evening he did it I couldn’t have even, if I’d have phoned the police I couldn’t have even crawled to the front door to let them in. I just couldn’t get off the floor. It was that I was just in so much pain.

Yeah, and did you have to endure any other physical injuries because of him?

Bruising round my neck.

When he lifted you?

Yeah, where he used to lift me. Split lips. I used to tell people at work that it would be my grandchildren sitting on my knee being a bit over-exuberant and bumped me. The odd black eye, walked into doors, cupboards, you name it. Oh, I lost teeth as well. I told people that I’d been walking out of the back door holding two cups of coffee and I’d tripped on the back doorstep and fallen holding two cups of coffee, and I lost bottom teeth. It’s just, just [laughs] one thing after another.
 

Jacqui described the escalation of abuse from the ‘odd slap’ and name-calling and the grief and shock she experienced after being hurt by the partner she thought loved her.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
In the beginning it was fine and it slowly escalated from the odd slap, the odd push escalating up to him breaking my ribs, finally hurting my back, and that’s when I actually started to seek help because I was beginning to get afraid that he was going to permanently damage me or kill me.

OK, so can you recall the first time you experienced abuse from him?

Yes on the whole it was when he was drinking or he came back from the pub and he’d been drinking. And he would start off calling me names, like I was stupid, that sort of thing. and the first time I can really remember thinking, “This is abusive,” was when he grabbed me round my throat and lifted me off the floor by my throat.

And how long into the relationship was that?

That was probably about two years into the relationship. And, as I say, it slowly escalated even further than that. The very first time it was a bit like going through grief when he broke my ribs. He’d come back from the pub very argumentative, so I went upstairs to try and diffuse the situation. I’m 5’4” and he’s 6’4”. And I was on the bed and he grabbed me and slammed me on the floor and stamped on me, and we both heard my ribs crack. And he just said, “I didn’t mean to do that,” and he got into bed and went to sleep and left me on the floor.

And at that time can you recall how you were feeling, lying on the floor?

Absolutely in shock. Absolutely in shock. Here was this man that was supposed to love me and he’d, he’d really hurt me and he hadn’t cared. it was the most awful feeling, awful feeling. As I say, it felt a bit like grief.

Hmm.

You know, and the shock of it.
 

Jacqui described being controlled by her ex-partner to the extent that she became afraid to be herself, and instead tried to be the person her ex-partner wanted.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And just thinking how did it feel to have your behaviour controlled by somebody?

Awful, absolutely awful. Having to, having to think all the time, “Well if I do that how’s he going to react? or if I do that how’s he going to react? Oh, should I ask him first?” all those sort of things just to try and stop him getting angry.

And keeping the peace all the time. You, you start being afraid just to be who you are and that you, you sort of become, try and become the person that you know they want you to be.

Right, and you’re continually trying to achieve that?

Continually, and it is so wearing and so stressful living on your nerves like that all the time, always having to watch what you say all the time.

And what about now? Obviously you seem very positive now in terms of your voluntary work and enjoying life again and you’ve got, you know, you’re the person who you were before you were in that relationship, you’ve got yourself back. So would you say that the abuse you endured still affects how you feel about yourself in any way or what you do?

To, to a degree, yes. But I’m actually trying to improve that myself by doing courses to help me improve, you know, my self-worth, my belief in myself, my confidence.
 

Jacqui felt she was ‘jumping off a cliff’ when she left her partner but she built a close relationship with her support worker, who helped her get a range of services.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I went to see my GP.

Right.

And disclosed to her. And she was the one that actually put me onto our domestic abuse organisation.

A local based organisation?

Yeah, local, yes, yes.

OK, so she referred you to them?

She referred me. Yes, yes.

OK, and how did she react then when you disclosed to her the abuse you’d experienced?

She was very supportive actually. She wasn’t at all dismissive, very supportive and very kind really, very kind. She didn’t act shocked. But she didn’t make me feel uncomfortable with disclosing to her.

And did they, the organisation, contact you then or did you have to contact them?

I had to contact them. And they were very quick to respond, very quick.

So what support did they then provide to you?

Basically when they, when I first met my community support worker, she put into practice, into place things, practical things like making sure with the police it would be a rapid response if I had to phone up. practical ideas, like always having a bag ready in case I had to flee very quickly with all my documentation and, you know, basic stuff in. She was also very good at, she wasn’t judgemental, she was very supportive, she gave me options. I had the option that I could have gone into a refuge if I’d chosen to. But that’s not the way I wanted to actually do it. And she, you know, it was my decision completely. And when I did oh, she also helped me get a different banding with the council.

Right.

And she just let me talk and she didn’t ever tell me what I should do or what I shouldn’t do but was just, whatever I was saying, she would support me in whatever decisions I wanted to make, she supported me. And when I finally decided to go and I managed to get a flat she was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Because I did leave without anything and it was like jumping off a cliff, it really was. And the flat I moved to, I had absolutely nothing, and she was able to access through various charities and organisations practical things for me, like beds, carpets, cooker, fridge freezer.

Yeah.

When I first moved into the flat I just had a little canvas fold up chair, I had no curtains, I had no carpets first of all but I had a front door key that was mine and I was safe.

And how did that feel?

Oh it’s [laughs] absolutely, absolutely fantastic. It really is, it’s such a difference, such a difference. It’s my flat.

And your home.

[Laughs]

So the community support worker, so that was through the local organisation, the women you saw, and how often did you meet with her?

Usually it was about once a week.

OK.

And we had this special code to make sure he wasn’t there.

Right OK.

That he’d gone to work and then she’d come round.

She’d come and see you at home?

She’d come to me, yeah, she’d come to me, yes.

And the time period from the back incident to actually having the flat, was that days, weeks, months?

Ooh goodness, let me think. It was probably, I think that was about probably about four or five months between first being in contact with her and actually getting my flat, yes.

And that was the same support worker then who sorted it all out?

Yes, yes.

And do you think it was important to have that consistent?

Oh absolutely, yes, because you do build up quite, you know, quite a close relationship. In fact I still see her now and I actually consider her a friend now, so yes, we have stayed in contact, and that’s three years.

And once you were in your own flat, so did she continue to see you quite a lot during the initial weeks and months you were in there?

Initially, yes, initially just as and when I needed it, support or just to drop in. You know, she’d ring me and say, “I’m in the area, do you want me to pop in for a cup of tea?” and that, and she would, yeah.
 

Despite her partner using her depression as a ‘rod’ to beat her with, Jacqui eventually talked to her GP who was supportive and referred her to the local Domestic Violence and Abuse agency.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So what was the trigger for you to leave that relationship?

The trigger would have been the final time when he hurt my back. And that scared me, that really did scare me because I thought, you know, [deep breath] the next time I might not be quite as lucky in it could, it could have been much, much more serious, even more serious than it, than it was at the time, sort of thing. He could have ended up killing me just out of pure temper.

Yeah. Can you describe to me then the process of leaving?

The process of leaving then [deep breath] he eventually, this happened on a Friday night and eventually on the Sunday he took me to A&E. and even though he was there, nobody actually asked had I, did I know where to get help from. I think it’s probably changed now, I think there’s been more work done around medical staff picking up on domestic abuse.

Yeah.

But when we got home, all they could, all they could have given me was painkillers, and when my painkillers ran out and I was still in such excruciating pain with all these back spasms, I went to see my GP.

Right.

And disclosed to her. And she was the one that actually put me onto our domestic abuse organisation.

A local based organisation?

Yeah, local, yes, yes.

OK, so she referred you to them?

She referred me. Yes, yes.

OK, and how did she react then when you disclosed to her the abuse you’d experienced?

She was very supportive actually. She wasn’t at all dismissive, very supportive [pause 3secs] and very kind really, very kind. She didn’t act shocked. But she didn’t make me feel uncomfortable with disclosing to her.

And did they, the organisation, contact you then or did you have to contact them?

I had to contact them. And they were very quick to respond, very quick.

So what support did they then provide to you?

Basically when they, when I first met my community support worker, she put into practice, into place things, practical things like making sure with the police it would be a rapid response if I had to phone up. practical ideas, like always having a bag ready in case I had to flee very quickly with all my documentation and, you know, basic stuff in. She was also very good at, she wasn’t judgemental, she was very supportive, she gave me options. I had the option that I could, I could have gone into a refuge if I’d chosen to. But that’s not the way I wanted to actually do it. And she, you know, it was my decision completely. And when I did oh, she also helped me get a different banding with the council.

Right.

And she just, she just let me talk and she didn’t ever tell me what I should do or what I shouldn’t do but was just, whatever I was saying, she would support me in whatever decisions I wanted to make, she supported me. And when I finally decided to go and I managed to get a flat she was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Because I did leave without anything and it was like jumping off a cliff, it really was. And the flat I moved to, I had absolutely nothing, and she was able to access through various charities and organisations practical things for me, like beds, carpets, cooker, fridge freezer.
 

Jacqui described cutting her arms with razors in order to release some of the emotional pain she was feeling, and finally approaching her GP for help.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
We’ve touched on some of this already, but if we could just explore in a little more detail in terms of the impact of domestic abuse, when you were in that relationship how did it impact on you emotionally and psychologically?

Emotionally and psychologically I became very depressed, extremely depressed. I used to self-harm. I used to cut my arms with razors because I just had so much pain inside of me and it was the only, only thing I could do to release any of the pain. And I ended up going to see the doctor and getting antidepressants. And that was just then another rod for him to beat me with to say that I was going mad as well. So that was the ever decreasing cycle going on there.

I was just so isolated. At work I was telling people fibs about bruises. And it was afterwards I actually found out that my colleagues had suspected something, but it was always the elephant in the room.

Right.

And nobody felt they could actually ask me outright. I told lies. When he broke my ribs I told people at work that I’d been hanging curtains and I’d slipped and broken my ribs on the windowsill. So I was ashamed. I was ashamed.
Previous Page
Next Page